Skip to Main Content

Course Design Blueprint: Learning Experiences

Learning Experiences

On this page we explore some terminology and learning experiences which can be used to deliver learning within our Block and Blend pedagogy.  

What is Tutor Structured Learning?

The learning that students engage with to achieve the outcomes associated with any module or course will comprise of those activities that that tutors set out for students to do, and independent learning in which they determine how they spend their time (often in response guidance from tutors as to what may be helpful). We use the term ‘Tutor structured learning’ to encompass all of the former, including learning activities that take place on campus, in placement, at home or online, with tutors present (virtually or in person) or not, with students working in groups or individually.

Our intention is to avoid the implicit devaluing of any activities that are not deemed ‘contact’ time. While there is clearly a high value to students of having time interacting with tutors, other learning activities will have similar, and in some cases, even higher value to students in progressing and completing their learning.

Defining Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

All interactions that students have with their tutors will be either synchronous, with both parties consciously engaging with the interaction at the same point in time, or asynchronous, with the timing of contributions spaced over time.

Fundamental to the Block and Blend pedagogy is our recognition of the high value that asynchronous interactions can have for students’ learning. Most asynchronous learning activities can be accessed by students as fits with their own circumstances and opportunities: unlike timetabled learning on campus, asynchronous activities can be postponed to when a student has the capacity to invest the appropriate attention and headspace to the work. For some students, the immediacy of synchronous sessions can create barriers to their effective engagement with the opportunities for interaction with tutors afforded to them. Many asynchronous tutor facilitated activities, such as those enabled through discussion boards or online tutorials, make such interactions far more accessible for students who find synchronous interaction daunting or too immediate to allow them to gain from it effectively. The provision of on opportunity to gain individual feedback on a short piece of writing from a tutor, an asynchronous learning activity, will in many instances be more valuable for a student than an hour spent listening to the tutor responding to other students’ questions.

What makes ABL Active Blended Learning?

Students’ learning involves many different processes through which they extend their existing knowledge and understanding, gain experience in employing this in problem solving and evaluative situations, and test and deepen it through social and professional dialogue and practice. All planned learning programmes need to integrate numerous activities that prompt each of these types of learning process, engaging students in various cognitive (and physical for some courses) challenges, and enabling them to perceive their success or progress clearly and constructively.
  • Close interaction with tutors, small group teaching and team work
  • Activities that reflect the workplace and accommodate learner needs
  • A future-focused, digitally rich learning environment
  • An impressive range of accessible and up-to-date online resources and materials across all subject areas
  • Access to information and resources that is straightforward, consistent and reassuring
  • A supportive culture of motivation to progress and succeed, with students’ personal tutors playing a key role
  • A focus on academic and social belonging opportunities, including mentoring and peer support mechanisms

Active Blended Learning IS Active Blended Learning Is NOT
learner-centered and interaction-heavy, with a mix of learner-lecturer, learner-learner and learner-content interactions. one way transmission of knowledge
students having access to a range of media, constructing their own understanding of the subject knowledge students simply receiving information
students turning up to a session having engaged with the learning materials and tools, ready to be collaborative and productive in the session students turning up to a session in order to be taught
students having the opportunity to be guided by their lecturers and peers as they apply their subject knowledge to real-world problems and scenarios students only working independently for the more cognitively-demanding tasks, such as problem solving
using Brightspace to create an engaging module, with narrative and flow, so that students can move seamlessly from topic to topic and use a range of tools. using Brightspace as a content dump or file repository
using Brightspace as an integral part of how the learning is delivered using the online content as a bolt on
something that you develop in conjunction with your course team and the support available to you from Digital Learning Designers, Academic Skills Advisors and Learning & Teaching Librarians. something you come up with on your own
is tweaked and enhanced in response to feedback from students and the engagement data built once and left alone
understanding that face-to-face tuition is just one small part of how we can help learners to progress and develop. If we use the full range of tools available to us, they can make progress just as well (and ideally better) than before. completely reliant on face-to-face tuition


What is Flipped Learning?

Traditionally, lectures have formed the main means by which subject content is conveyed to students. This model has been challenged through the flipped learning model where students are expected to review content (through online provision, reading, and other learning activities) in advance of time spent synchronously with tutors. This allows the students to make effective use of tutor’s time in gaining insight, exploring questions and debates, and receiving feedback on their own learning. This model of delivery is already being used on a number of University of Suffolk courses.

Authentic Learning

The University’s strategies prioritise ensuring students are equipped and ready to take up employment and career progression opportunities. Consequently, the regular use of authentic learning activities, those where students explore, interact with, and inhabit real contexts and situations as an arena for applying and challenging their learning, should be a significant feature of all our courses. Such opportunities also support students in realising the relevance of their learning, and enable them to develop and apply graduate attributes and skills.

A formative Philosophy for Success

Providing many opportunities for students to gain genuine confidence in their progress and feedback to inform their future learning activity, particularly at level four, is a key element of the University’s learning, teaching and assessment strategy. It is expected that all modules’ learning and teaching will integrate regular formative opportunities throughout their delivery plans. Teams are encouraged, where reasonable, to structure such opportunities so that students are able to build on them in producing their summative assessment submissions.

Collaboration and Learning Communities

Learning in Block and Blend is expected to be interactive, with staff and students forming learning communities within which each is expected to contribute to each other’s learning and development. This will take time to nurture within any cohort of students and the course team will need to consciously plan learning activities to enculturate this.

There are many ways in which University of Suffolk course teams and Schools have sought to develop course learning communities, some of which are briefly explored below:

  • Peer learning and support mechanisms: Early in some courses students are required to form study groups in which they are tasked to complete learning and research activities in collaboration.  This can support cohorts in building links and supportive peer relationships, and encourage students to explore how they can work together in support of their learning.  Getting higher level students (or recent graduates) to meet with or present to lower level students can help provide guidance and insight that students can gain from in early engagement with study or assessment tasks, their first placement experiences, and the preparation for dissertation or final year project work.  Informally arranged peer mentoring can also be helpful - arranging for studnets in later years of their study to mentor individuals or groups of first year students as they adjust to Higher Education.  Similarly, more formal arrangements can be put in place where funding enables peer mentors to be paid for their contributions. 
  • Vertical leaning - the purposed and planned creation of situations and opportunities for students from different levels to interact or work together to the benefit of each other.  Examples include:
    • engaging level five students to manage student projects in which level four students provide the workforce;
    • the creation of open 'crits' where students of multiple levels share and critique each others' work (particularly relevant for creative subjects);
    • the engaging of lower level students to support final year students' research work (such as within an experimental project involving subjects that will need to be managed within and directed to laboratory settings, or within a wildlife surveying research project where lower level students can assist with the surveying activity and data recording);
    • the involvement of lower level students in the set-up or staging of final year students' exhibitions or shows;
    • inviting lower level students to attend and participate in final year students' final year project presentations.
  • Extra-curricular activities.  Notable examples include
    • the staging of Game Jams where students are encouraged to take part in a rapid game development over a short (i.e. two day) period;
    • the formation and support of a subject specific Students' Union Society;
    • scheduling of public lectures, presentations, exhibitions or conferences to which students are invited to attend or contribute to.

Planned learning

Course and Module teams are expected to plan the tutor structured learning that is set for their students with care and consideration. Further guidance on this will be emerging in the coming months based on the Block and Blend pilot work, and will be integrated into the course blueprint.

Storyboards are a valuable tool for planning learning activities. Microsoft Whiteboard is a great tool to collaboratively develop your storyboard digitally.


Problem based learning

While structuring learning around defined content ensures students are exposed to the key elements of the curriculum, Problem Based Learning recognises that students’ ability to seek out and apply the theory and practice pertinent to specific situations is also a key skill.  In many more advanced areas of subjects, encompassing a variety of subject specialisms, it is impractical to cover them all to any consistent depth.  By employing problem based learning, students will explore those parts that are relevant to the particular problems they are set, developing skills in independent learning, as well as communication skills where this learning needs to be communicated with their peers.

Problem based learning can take a variety of forms, but essentially it centres around the use of one or more, usually complex and open ended, problems or scenarios as the driver(s) for the students’ learning activities.  Students are usually required to work in groups to seek to resolve the problem over a prolonged period of time.  As the students gain deeper insights into the problem, they each take responsibility for finding and sharing further information to support further resolution.  The tutor provides guidance and signposting for the group, adapting their input to the group’s progress and needs.

In completing the work, students can gain experience of, and develop skills in:
  • Authentic scenarios and problems, often with no single right solution.
  • Prolonged team working and negotiation skills.
  • Research and independent learning skills.
  • Problem solving, employed alongside evaluation and critical thinking.
  • Peer learning and communication.
  • Professional communication and presentation skills.

A coaching approach to learning, teaching and assessment

A Coaching culture is one which encourages a growth mindset in individuals. Through coaching conversations coachees can develop their sense of self efficacy, awareness and as a result can benefit from:

  • enhanced goal attainment
  • enhanced resilience and wellbeing
  • reduced stress, anxiety or depression
  • improved personal effectiveness
  • increased satisfaction
  • increased engagement. 

The University has developed the Personal Academic Coach model to replace the Personal Tutorial system as a way of providing specific time for coaching conversations with our students, but the ethos of coaching and coaching style conversations can be embedded into learning teaching and assessment activity more broadly.